U.N investigators are looking into claims of mass graves containing the bodies of migrants at a trafficking hub in Libya, according to a report released on Monday that also detailed rape, murder, and torture occurrences.
Libya is a key transit hub for Africans trying to make the treacherous trek over the Mediterranean to Europe, but many end up enslaved or forced into prostitution by militias and traffickers.
Several migrants told the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission that the desert city of Bani Walid had “mass graves,” with one stating that he had buried three victims in one of them.
The report did not specify how many remains might be in the graves, but mission member Chaloka Beyani said a newly appointed forensic specialist will try to dig deeper.
Several East African women also spoke of being raped and sexually assaulted.
“If migrants who were kept there heard the word Bani Walid, she or he would start crying. They set fire to and burn women’s breasts and vaginas there,” a female migrant told investigators this month in comments printed in the 18-page report that will be presented to Geneva’s Human Rights Council this week.
Another Sudanese migrant in Sebha told the United Nations team that he was set on fire because his family refused to pay a ransom. He died as a result of his injuries later.
The mission’s report, the second of three based on 120 interviews conducted between October and March, also expressed worries about hidden jails reportedly maintained by opposing armed groups, which might jeopardise the country’s democratic transition.
Libya has been in chaos for a decade since a NATO-backed insurrection in 2011. Since 2020, there has been a relative quiet in east-west conflict, but UN-backed efforts to hold elections as part of a peace process faltered in December, exacerbating a political crisis.
One of the mission’s three members, Chaloka Beyani, described the situation for migrants in Libya as “very, very grave” and demanded technical support to aid Libya in holding offenders accountable.
The mission is requesting that its work be extended through the end of June, when its final report is expected.
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